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The Commission on Indian Affairs was created by statute in 1953 by the New Mexico State Legislature.

The statute established a state agency, the Office of Indian Affairs (OIA), which would serve as a vehicle between New Mexico’s governor, legislature, and the state’s seperate and distinct tribal groups. Former Governor Bill Richardson signed Executive Order No. 2003-022 on June 20, 2003, elevating the OIA to the Indian Affairs Department (IAD), a cabinet-level department.

In April 2004, House Bill 39 which formerly established the Indian Affairs Department by legislative statute, was passed and signed into law.